Back in my golf playing days long time club member Charlie Marshall furnished the group with inscribed T-shirts that were made by one of his daughters. The front of the shirt listed the calamities that we might encounter living in California, stuff like wildfires, earthquakes, windstorms and the like. On the rear of the shirt was the saying, “California is not for Wimps.”
I was thinking about this the past weekend when I saw by the papers that the state had been declared, by the governor no less, to be in a drought condition. So what else is new?
I was really thinking of the T-shirt and how “drought” was missing from the list of those bad things that might befall us.
I suppose it might be that we are generally always in a state of drought. It therefore is nothing new. But if we really get down and give it serious thought it must be a calamity, big time, not necessarily from the drought itself but some of the side effects for which it is responsible. Look how it affects the farmer who supplies the nation with the food we eat. The food will be given us, it is true, but the quality of the product may not be nutritious enough and it certainly will not be as inexpensive as in days of yore.
Then there are two other drawbacks that are closely connected to drought. Droughts will go away and are generally followed by vast amounts of rain. The ground cover, not used to wet conditions will generally result in floods, mud slides, and the accompanying negatives as a result of a long dry season. This will generally put a crimp in the infrastructure that is responsible for water run-off thus compounding the situation.
The weather gurus tell us that we are in danger of not having any rain in the current month of January. If this comes to pass it will be the only dry January since 1975.
I was around in January of that year but can’t remember much about it. I suppose I was too busy trying to make a living. I tend to remember most of the other calamities, wildfires, particularly, since we were more closely associated with them. When one can walk on the street on which he lives, at night time, and look toward the mountain and he sees a thin pencil of fire heading in his direction this can be true.
Ah, but at this time we are more concerned with droughts rather than those other things. Over the years we have had many of them. And these droughts are generally the fault of no one unless we want to blame one of those things that go with the part of the country in which we live. You got to take the not-so-good with the good, someone once said.
It was this month, 98 years ago that the southland experienced probably its greatest calamity. It was in late 1915 that the city fathers showed a little more than cursory concern over the drought that had been with them for four years.
The San Diego City Council, having received pressure from the entire citizenry knew that some sort of action was necessary. On the desk of one of them was an offer by one Charley Hatfield who asserted a boast that he could fill the Morena reservoir to overflowing. Stamped as a charlatan by some he was, nevertheless, hired by the city.
The Morena reservoir, a relatively new structure had never been one third filled, much less overflowing. How could he do it? Wasting little time Charlie went to work. It was New Year’s Day of 1916. With the aid of his brother, Paul, Charlie commenced the task of moving his gear to the site of the reservoir and erected a tower. This done he commenced mixing his chemicals, stirring, cooking, cooling and all the time watching as his vapors ascended cloud-ward. Needless to say Charlie had, by now, attracted quite a following and each day saw a throng of sightseers watching the proceedings, some jeering but many cheering.
On Jan. 14 the jeers turned to cheers. The rains came, at first, slowly but soon picking up until there was a steady downpour. And the downpour continued causing everyone to believe that, yes, Charlie could do it.
Not only do it, but overdo it. “That’s enough, Charlie,” was the cry. “Sorry,” was the reply. “I can make it rain; I can’t stop it.”
One can read the entire story about Charlie Hatfield at the Bonita Museum. The ending was not pretty. But it was enough to make Charlie a living folk-hero